Wow — it’s been awhile since my last post! I apologize for the lack of uploads the past few months, senior year has been super busy with sports, college applications and schoolwork! Here’s an excerpt from a (hopeful) short story I’ve been working on titled Hangman. Enjoy!
Only on Thursday afternoons Ezra and I were told we could not take the main road home. The main road being through downtown. Instead we would twist around corners and unfamiliar roads, though they were now becoming common to us. This added around ten extra minutes to our walk home, Ezra once timed it with dad’s leather wristwatch. The leather was sort of worn down and the ticks didn’t tick like they used to, but it earned our easily given trust. As my mother caressed my unruly and dark hair into two braids, she continued to remind me, a soft whisper that hung onto my ear, followed by an I love you. This was the case this morning, and yesterday, and the day before and the day before that. Thursday, October the eighth, a date remained imprinted in ink on the calendar hung onto the refrigerator. It was a grey morning, the clouds were charcoal and the sky was concrete. Nothing out of the ordinary, a bleak morning in a bleak city teeming with bleak people. Our front door still had that scuff on it and still moaned a twisted creaky noise when swung open. A strange sensation consumed the air this morning. My stomach was static. Our usual walks to school were crowded with laughter and small discussion about trivial, meaningless matters. I didn’t say much today. Neither did Ezra, but I could tell he felt it too, the static groan buried down below our throats.
Six or seven hours or however many taps on the analog clock surpassed me along with the rest of my classmates. I contemplated visiting the nurse’s office, due to that awful feeling deep down inside of me. But I didn’t. I sort of envisioned my encounter with the nurse, a grey haired woman of fifty six. She would ask me how I felt and why I stood before her and I would certainly respond with, “Nurse Terry, there’s a black and white feeling in my stomach!” But a black and white feeling wasn’t a ticket home as lice or vomit was. Instead I spent a significant remainder of the day watching Dorothy Deacon twist at the dead ends of her brown hair and Mr. Wylie mar the board with stiff pale chalk. The words and numbers etched into my paper slipped from my finger tips and shattered on impact with the floor. Time ebbs and flows in strange ways when confined by four monotonous white walls.
The iron bell echoed through our school like an iron fist, expelling children in all directions. I waited for Ezra under the apple tree next to the empty set of swings. I could spot his shaggy black hair in the sea of auburns and blondes. He walked with his hands fixed in his pockets and his eyes beamed to his dirty sneakers below him. His freckles looked troubled, they almost looked like rain drops, his shoulders weary. “What’s wrong?” I asked, my voice fluctuated from a valley to a peak in concern.
“I don’t feel good.”
“What is it?” I proceeded, Ezra answered with a slight shrug. Without any more questions I turned on my heals and we turned right as opposed to left, it being a Thursday. For the first hundred or so steps, my hands tugged at the straps on my book bag, the weight shifted on and off, this being a sign of my boredom. Surrounding us were small shops of sorts, and apartment buildings like ours. The only shop I recognized truly was the bakery called Mary’s, I went there a couple times with mother to pick up bread and muffins. Lately we had stopped going to the named bakeries and butcher shops and opted for the convenience store down the block. Brick walls were patchy, inconsistent colored blocks concealed graffiti and paintings underneath.
It was around this time of year the trees would die. There were no leaves, no colors, only bare and broken branches. The scenery was sapped and worn down, but in a beautiful way. This is what we had been taught in school and on the television and at home. I had grown to love the normality of the trees, and the roads and streets and houses. Routine was a warm hug, so was regularity. The small bony trees that dug into the ground were a fresh breath from the concrete and cement that consumed our everyday lives. Yes they were grey, and spindly and miniscule to the oaks and pines you would see in the old movies that only aired after twelve at night. But they became us. It became an antidote to that staticy feeling.
Ezra and I disappeared off of Main Street and slipped onto Baldwin Street, it was Thursday afterall. Baldwin Street resembled Canary Way, which was alike Tucker Park, which showed similarities with Main Street. The backroads and side streets had the same grey white tone, and splotchy patches in paint and consistency in the sky. The only difference was there weren’t any stores and businesses, only homes. Fifty paces down the asphalt Ezra and I met a road block. The slab of concrete rested itself sideways on the road. Spray-painted black letters scribed on the grey read: Closed for Construction. There was nobody beyond the cinder block, only a few stray plastic bags.
I turned myself towards Ezra, who offered me a puzzled look. “What do we do now?” His voice shook just as his knees did.
“I guess we head back and take Main Street,” I spoke
“But, we aren’t supposed to go there, that’s what mom always says,” Ezra was right.
“You think I don’t know that?”
I spun around and headed back up Baldwin Street, Ezra had no choice but to follow. We again watched the same homes and small trees pass by us as our legs went on. My mind raced back and forth, I was no longer able to focus my attention to the homes, only the static. In truth, we had never questioned our mother on why exactly Main Street had become so dangerous. We never asked questions. I always assumed there was construction of some sort, and that she wanted to make sure her children weren’t struck down by a fallen brick or two. I could tell solely by the tension in Ezra’s knotted up shoulders that he did not assume the same as I did. Mother always called me her little optimist and Ezra her little pessimist.
Main Street on Thursday looked like Main Street any other day, I didn’t understand. There were no construction workers. Ezra’s expression contorted to one of discomfort once more. We still encountered the same signs, the same warnings. Reminders of urban curfews projected themselves onto the grey business buildings surrounding us. This had been enforced for always, so I didn’t quite understand why we needed the constant mention. I grew up abiding by these, so did mother, and her mother and hers, so on and so forth. Along with these, the laws were also painted on a few brick walls here and there. I didn’t quite understand those either. The static feeling became stronger. As Ezra and I made our way further down Main Street, we began to realize why our mother forbode us from taking this route.
A rather large group of people circled around the street, many held signs in their cracked hands and marched. I could almost make out the words on the signs, the words were not pretty. Before the shouting began there was a strange hum that was held in the dull air. The hum hung low and brushed against my scalp. All felt still, there was no breeze like the weatherman this morning, the one with the blonde slicked back hair and plastic smile, had predicted. Then the yelling came. The voices pouring out from the mass croaked and echoed off of the grey and brick buildings which lined Main Street. Sound waves tumbled through my ear and crashed into my temple, enough impact to cause a bruise surely. I snapped my neck to look over to Ezra, frightened freckles and shaking pant legs. I took his hand in mine, the cold feeling of my palm caused him to lurch. “We can get past if we take the sidewalks,” I said to Ezra, unsure if we actually could do so. He said nothing. I spoke once more, “Look down and stay quiet,” Ezra’s grey eyes remained focused on the concrete and his chapped lips remained shut.
Speaking in friction the government was not taken lightly. A charcoal haired boy in my English class, Harvey Daniels, his mother had been arrested for doing so. Since he had carried luggage under his eyes and didn’t always straighten out his collar. I think it’s been around two years since Mrs. Daniels was taken off. I was scared. So was Ezra. His steps were apprehensive as we approached the crowd. I under calculated the size of the group really, we would have to slip in between the cracks and crevices of bodies to get home. They didn’t seem to notice the two schoolchildren crouched and pushing beneath them. They did not seem scared either, scared of the law and it’s upholding. Many wore bandanas, black, and strung them over their face to conceal their mouths. I can’t remember who threw the first cannister that let out that awful white smell, I really can’t. Ezra told me later that he saw a man clad in a helmet and a boxy vest, a law enforcement officer, throw the compacted metal as if he were pitching a baseball on opening day.
Our limp bodies pushed back and forth. Colliding with shoulders and elbows and bones. I could taste Ezra’s freckles. I tried to root my feet into the ground, to mimic those trees I loved, to find stability. Stability had left us. Stability was beyond us. All I saw was the movement of the color black, presumably bodies. A man next to me, as tall as a pine, crumpled and hit the ground. I could feel blood spill from my nose and my forehead. I held tight to Ezra’s sleeve. The sensation of jacket seams ripping trickled up my forearm. I don’t know how long we were in there. Dad’s leather wrist watch escaped Ezra’s bony wrist and fell to the ground. Glass shatters not only on store windows but beneath combat boots.
It was then that the horde began to expel in all directions. Much like our classmates leaving the school thirty minutes prior. There was still movement, but less concentrated. I could see the concrete below us now. My eyes were drawn to the leather wrist watch, which laid defeated on the ground. Still clutching to Ezra, I used my empty hand to grope the asphalt and extract what was left of the wristband and broken glass, burying it in my pocket. I coughed, the white invaded my lungs and made my eyes water. A hand grabbed my shoulder, dragging us out of the crowd. My shins and knees stung as they hit the pavement, tiny black rocks buried themselves inside of me. Soon there was no commotion, only the static remained. I could see bricks out of my left eye and the sky out of my right. I was able to see blood out of both.